It’s interesting. Last month, when we discussed heroes and where we get our inspiration, many of us listed fictional characters—lots of actors. And I’ll be the first to admit that I search the internet for photos of actors I crush on when I’m seeking inspiration for my heroes. But I noticed this month in discussing what inspires our heroines, many of us listed real people. Women and girls we know—family members, friends, the girl next door. Is it because we’re women, and we know intimately how difficult that role is? Is it because we want someone we can relate to? After all, we’re living the heroine’s life for the length of the book … whether we’re reading or writing it.
I’m not any different when it comes to writing my heroines. Inspiration comes from the strong females in my life: my mom and mother-in-law, my sister and sisters-in-law, grandmothers, and friends. Surprisingly, the females I most admire are my daughters. In their few short years on this earth, they’ve experienced more than their fair share of struggles. My youngest is very private and would not want me to discuss her here. But my oldest died when she was five years old, so she’s fair game.
Rachel was born with Hirschsprung’s disease. For five years she struggled with this rare congenital condition—surgeries, medications and chronic illness. She probably saw every pediatric specialty there is—surgeon, cardiologist, ENT, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist. She didn’t let it slow her down. I don’t know if this was because she had an older brother to keep up with or because she sensed her time with us was short and she had to make the most of it.
The month before Rachel died, she convinced her brother to teach her to read. I was against it because I was afraid she’d be bored when she started Kindergarten. She didn’t let my opinion stop her. In hindsight, I know my worries were groundless. She wouldn’t have been bored: she would have taken the opportunity to help her teachers teach the kids who didn’t know how to read. How do I know this?
Rachel cared about people and made it her mission to help them. When she went to the
playground or local burger doodle, she asked children who didn’t have anyone to play with to play with her. In fact, during a visit to a burger joint the week before she died, she not only had the children who didn’t have playmates playing with her, she’d organized everyone in the play area into a game. And when it was time for us to leave, she said good-bye to each of them. This was typical of her.
After Rachel’s death, her preschool teachers asked her classmates for memories to share at the memorial service. One little girl, Joy, who was very shy, told her teachers that Rachel said whenever Joy felt shy she should just come hold Rachel’s hand and everything would be okay.
That was my girl, twenty-five pounds of tiny but mighty. I like to think that a little of her strength and compassion lives in all of my heroines … and in my heroes, too.
I would love to hear about the women or girls in your life who inspire you. Who do you admire and why?